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SUTD Researchers Develop Simple Method To 3D Print Milk-Based Products

Researchers from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) developed a method to perform direct ink writing (DIW) three-dimensional (3D) printing of milk products at room temperature by changing the rheological properties of the printing ink. 3D printing of food products has been demonstrated by different methods such as selective laser sintering (SLS) and hot-melt extrusion. Methods requiring high temperatures are, however, not suitable to creating 3D models consisting of temperature-sensitive nutrients. Milk is an example of such foods rich in nutrients such as calcium and protein that would be temperature sensitive. Cold-extrusion is an alternative method of 3D printing, but it requires the addition of rheology modifiers and the optimization of the multiple components. To address this limitation, the team demonstrated DIW 3D printing of milk by cold-extrusion with a simple formulation of the milk ink. Their method relies on only one milk product (powdered milk). They formulated 70 w/w% milk ink and successfully fabricated complex 3D structures. Extending our method, we demonstrated multi-material printing and created food with various edible materials. Given the versatility of the demonstrated method, they envision that cold extrusion of food inks will be applied in creating nutritious and visually appealing food, with potential applications in formulating foods with various needs for nutrition and materials properties, where food inks could be extruded at room temperature without compromising the nutrients that would be degraded at elevated temperatures.

Optical images of the DIW 3D-printed models of milk. The effects of the concentration of milk on the spreading of the printed ink were evident from the printed models. The mesh structures printed with inks of M10, M60, and M65 spread and filled the gaps. The printed mesh structures were maintained after printing with M70 and M75 (all scale bar: 5 mm).
Optical images of the DIW 3D-printed models of milk. The effects of the concentration of milk on the spreading of the printed ink were evident from the printed models. The mesh structures printed with inks of M10, M60, and M65 spread and filled the gaps. The printed mesh structures were maintained after printing with M70 and M75 (all scale bar: 5 mm).

“This novel yet simple method can be used in formulating various nutritious foods including those served to patients in hospitals for their special dietary needs,” said the lead author and Ph.D. candidate from SUTD, Mr Lee Cheng Pau.

“Cold-extrusion does not compromise heat-sensitive nutrients and yet offers vast potential in 3D printing of aesthetically pleasing, nutritionally controlled foods customized for individual requirements,” added Assistant Professor Michinao Hashimoto, the principal investigator of the study.

This research was published by RSC Advances, a leading journal that encourages high quality, well conducted studies which contribute to the advancement of chemistry and its applications. Rahul Karyappa, a research fellow at SUTD, also participated in this project. Access the research paper, here!